Sexuality and Nudity

The yin yang of relationship – naked poetry book 3

I have been spending my time today doing a fair amount of writing and more research for my various projects, one of the benefits of retired life. Strangely, there has been very little time spent with social media where the debates about what is suitable imagery and attitude for those who are naturists or nudists. Specifically, what role does sex play, if any in the world of naturism.

I have my own opinions of sexual imagery and naturist imagery and I don’t mind sharing it. The content of both involves the unclothed human body. Both can show genitals in profile or full on. That being the case, what is the difference? In my opinion, every image communicates a message, both a conscious and/or unconscious message. When the message is simply “see me, I have genitals!”, I have no problem categorizing the image as purely sexual in its intent. When the image crops the face leaving only the genitals as the centre of focus, the image is again sexual, but it is also communicating that the subject (usually the photographer) is conflicted about sexuality and is operating more from his or her unconsciousness than consciousness. When the image which depicts genitals is set into a context of activity, or conscious state of being, then sexuality is set into a quiet place in the background, a natural state.

There needs to be an admission by anyone who wrestles with naturism and nudism – the human being is a sexual being – a psychological and a physiological sexual being. A human is a sexual being regardless of the state of dress or undress. We have responses to clothing and to nudity that are both passive and sexual in orientation. For example, there is no question that clothing can heighten one’s sexual interest. We dress to attract attention, to flirt, to tease, and to hopefully lead to some sexual fulfillment. At other times, we dress for function alone without a thought of using our clothing for sexual attraction. When others see us dressed in clothing that simply does its job, we are seen in a non-sexual manner.

sexual attraction is independent of nudity

Should we walk nude down a busy street, with a bit of a swagger and a certain smile on our face, we tend to evoke a sexual response, responses that are either shocked, or excited. However, should we be at a location with hundreds or thousands of others who are similarly without clothing, for the most part, sexuality recedes.

Sexuality is tied into desire, a deep longing that is beyond our conscious control. This is what Thomas Moore, author of the famous book, Care of the Soul, has to say about desire in a recent book called, Original Self.

“People are often frustrated when they discover that their deepest longing never goes away.” [p. 93]

People who are caught in the belief that desire is simply about the physical, can never understand why they are never satisfied, even when they engage in sexual activity. Nudity can and often does trigger desire, but desire doesn’t require nudity.

“Sex is never a purely physical act. It is always numinous, even when it is not perfect or is full of shadow. In rape, the soul is savaged, not just the body. . . . Sex abuse is a signal that we are trying hard to keep the divine out of our desire. . . . We make love, and in so doing we seek him whom we love but can never find.” [p. 94]

Most married couples know about the numinous aspect of sexual interactions, be they as simple as holding hands, feet touching while at the edges of sleep, the look in the eyes of the other, or the complete surrender when one makes oneself fully vulnerable.

Now, if only naturists would be fully aware that sexuality is not absent nor should it be absent simply because one is naked in the company of others. Desire will or will not make an appearance whether we will it or not, on its own terms in its own time. That said, one can make conscious efforts to keep the shadow side within acceptable boundaries and that can only be done when one admits that everyone has a shadow side.

What About the Children? Gut Responses to Nudity

Family nudity

I am asking this question because almost all of the outrage being expressed against nudity, especially nudity in the home and in public, is prefaced with “My God! What if children see nude people? They’ll be scarred forever!” As a naturist and as a therapist, I obviously don’t believe that nudity in itself causes psychological scarring for children or for adults. We are all nude beneath our clothing and are born nude. We are the only species that covers up because of some sense of shame at our nakedness. But at the same time, I don’t want to let my opinions get in the way of truth, so I went out searching for answers.

shock

Curiously, I didn’t find any scientific or psychological studies that confirmed that seeing nudity (oneself or others) was psychologically harmful in itself. Where there was harm, other factors were also present. However, I did find serious studies that basically stated that nudity was not the factor in the psychological scarring of children, studies such the one led by Paul Okami (cited below), Higgins and Hawkins (1984), and Dr. Conrad Manning. What was interesting in doing the research was the fact that few children in North America saw any adult nudity while children.

“Given the vehemence with which clinicians and child-rearing specialists often condemn childhood exposure to parental nudity, it is paradoxical that their dire predictions are not
supported by the (scant) empirical work that does exist.” [Okami, Olmstead, Abramson, Pendelton, Archives of Sexual Behavior. Volume: 27. Issue: 4, “Early childhood exposure to parental nudity.”

Another study by Lewis and Janda (1988) studied the literature and conducted a study of Seventy-seven males and 133 females to assess the relationship between exposure to nudity and adult well-being.

“The results suggest that childhood exposure to nudity and sleeping in the parental bed are not related to poor sexual adjustment. In fact, for boys, exposure to nudity in early childhood appears to be modestly related to greater comfort levels with regard to physical contact /affection.” [Lewis and Janda, Archives of Sexual Behavior Vol. 17, No. 4, 1988 “The Relationship Between Adult Sexual Adjustment and Childhood Experiences Regarding Exposure to Nudity]

Studies aside, society judges harshly. And as with all harsh responses, reality is not the issue, only the dark shadow hanging over and within a society and its constituents. Will children be scarred by the sight of nudity? If our collective shadow has its way, we will make sure that they do. Left to nature, never!

A Naturist In Control of the World

Control – or should I say, the illusion of control – is something each of us holds onto as tightly as possible as naturists. Like most people, I have control issues. I want the world to unfold in a manner that suits my conscious [ego] wishes. If possible, I would control others, the weather, the economy, politics, relationships [mine and others] and the choices others make. If possible, I would set the laws of the world to allow nudism anywhere, anytime, for anyone. If I could set the laws of human nature, I would have every human psychologically wired so as to never harm [physically and/or psychologically] themselves or others. I would also do a better job with the weather so that there would never be severe weather disturbances, and that there was just enough sunshine and rain to meet the needs of plant and animal life. I would also do away with evil while I was at it. Life would be perfect with no unpleasant surprises to disturb the calm.

Thou shalt, thou shalt not …

I know, who am I to set all the rules. Not everyone has the same notion of what would make a perfect world with perfect people. The truth is, even I would balk at having to live in such a perfect world. With everything being perfect there would cease to be satisfaction with that perfection as there would be nothing left to contrast and remind us of that perfection. I would get bored and likely become my own worst enemy in retaining this personal state of perfection. If I had to be naked all the time, I would likely invent something to create contrast – perhaps invent clothing. If others had to be perfect I would find it impossible to choose one person as my significant other and soon find myself in meaninglessness relationships where it didn’t matter who I chose or who chose me for a partner. I would turn dark inside and in doing so, I know that suddenly I would  be seen as a significant  other in contrast with the rest of a bland world.

Thinking about it, it’s a good thing I live in an imperfect world which at the moment is overcast, as I get to appreciate those sunshine moments when I can once again revel in being in my bare skin being kissed by the sun.